What is a kofta?
In its simplest form, the recipe for kofta curry consists of meatballs made with beef, lamb, chicken, or pork, that are mixed with spices and/or onions and served in a creamy sauce.
What are the different versions of kofta?
In Southeast Asia and the Middle East, kofta are usually made from lamb, beef, mutton or chicken, while Greek, Cypriot and Balkan versions can use pork, beef, lamb or a mixture of the three.
In Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan, kofta are served with a spicy sauce.
In southern India, Bengal, parts of the Persian Gulf, and parts of Egypt, people make fish and shrimp kofta.
Whatever its name, kofta or meatball, there is not a country or a region in the world that does not have its meatball recipe!
Meatball recipes around the world
In Sweden, the famous kottbullar are made from minced pork mixed with beef meat and/or veal. They are first pan-fried, then simmered in a creamy sauce.
British Scotch eggs, inspired by Indian nargisi kofta are hard-boiled eggs that are wrapped in a layer of spicy ground meat.
Throughout Central Asia, koftas are cooked in various flavors depending on the country or region, with a generous amount of fat and sometimes oxtail.
In the Balkans, kofta is usually made from pork, beef or veal, or a mixture of the three, and is often served as a mezze with tarator.
In Greece and Cyprus, koftas are more often fried and served with tzatziki and/or yoghurt.
In Israel, kufta or kofta are part of Mizrahi Jewish cuisine, a blend of culinary traditions from the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Arab countries. They are prepared with ground beef, herbs and spices and cooked with tomato sauce, date syrup, pomegranate syrup or tamarind syrup with vegetables or beans.
A fish version of kofta is prepared with finely chopped fish, cilantro, bell peppers and/or dried hot peppers, onion, black pepper. They are sometimes cooked in a tomato stew with chickpeas or white beans.
In modern Hebrew, the word kufta is used to describe a wide variety of meatballs as mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud (Mishnah).
In Lebanon, kafta is prepared by mixing ground beef, onion, parsley and allspice or black pepper.
In Morocco, keftas are generally prepared in a tajine in various sauces and accompanied by vegetables.
In Jordan, kofta is prepared with beef, chicken, or lamb or a mixture of chicken and beef, with chili peppers, parsley, mint, onion, black pepper. It is either fried in olive oil or stewed in a tomato sauce and/or pomegranate sauce.
- 1½ lb ground beef
- 3 small onions , chopped (about 2 cups/400g)
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 fresh hot pepper , finely chopped (optional)
- 3 onions , chopped
- 5 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger , chopped
- 2½ teaspoons turmeric
- 2½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 2½ teaspoons Cayenne pepper
- 3½ teaspoons garam masala
- 1 hot pepper , finely chopped (optional)
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1½ lb tomatoes , peeled, seeded and crushed
- 1¼ cup yogurt
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 2 onions , chopped
- 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon saffron (or ground saffron)
- 2½ teaspoons cumin seeds
- Mix all the kofta ingredients in a bowl.
- Form small meatballs the size of a walnut and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Sweat the onion in pan with hot oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, chili and spices and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the meatballs and sauté them so that they are golden on all sides.
- Add the tomato sauce and the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
- Add the yogurt and continue cooking on low heat for about 15 minutes.
- Serve the meatballs, topped with the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve saffron rice on the side (recipe below)
- Rinse the rice and drain well.
- Sweat the chopped onion over medium heat in a pan with hot oil. When translucent, add saffron and cumin seeds and mix for one minute.
- Add the rice and mix for 5 minutes until the rice soaks the oil and turns yellow.
- Add 3 cups of boiling water, and add salt.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover as tightly as possible and cook for about 20 minutes.